How 16-year-old Greta Thunberg became the face of climate-change activism
- Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, has become the face of climate change activism.
- Thunberg has spoken at United Nations summits, met with world leaders like President Obama, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-emissions boat, and led the largest youth climate strike in history.
- This week, Thunberg is scheduled to speak at the UN Youth Summit and UN Climate Summit in New York City.
- Here's how she rose to prominence on the world stage.
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The Global Climate Strike, which could be the largest climate change demonstration in history, is expected to put thousands of people on the streets around the world on Friday to protest inaction against climate change.
At the helm is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.
Over the last year, the teenager has entered the global spotlight as the leader of a youth movement that's pushing governments and corporations to address the climate crisis.
Thunberg launched the "Fridays For Future" movement - or School Strike for Climate (as it says in Swedish on her sign) - in 2018, encouraging students to skip school to demand action on climate change from their governments. In November, when she was a ninth grader, Thunberg staged a strike for two weeks outside the Swedish parliament, demanding that the government cut emissions by 15% a year.
Now Thunberg spends every Friday on strike.
In December, Thunberg made headlines by accusing a group of assembled leaders from nearly 200 countries of "behaving like children."
Thunberg will make her voice heard again on Saturday at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York City, then speak at the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday. To get to these events, she chose to sail across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions boat, rather than rely on emissions-heavy aviation.
Here's how Thunberg rose to prominence as the face of a new movement in a single year.
Thunberg has said she learned about climate change at age 8, and didn't understand why adults weren't acting to mitigate its effects. By age 11, she became depressed by the seemingly impossible task of saving the planet.
Thunberg partially credits her Asperger's syndrome for her fierce activist nature. She was diagnosed four years ago.
In December, Thunberg spoke at the 2018 United Nations climate change conference in Katowice, Poland.
Three months later, on March 15, 2019, Thunberg led more than 1 million students around the world to walk out of their Friday classes to protest inaction on climate change.
Thunberg spoke at the Stockholm demonstration during that global event.
As a commendation of her leadership, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thunberg's fame has continued to grow since the March strike and her Nobel Peace Prize nomination. In April, Thunberg briefly spoke with Pope Francis during the weekly general audience at the Vatican.
A week after that, Thunberg spoke to UK parliament leaders: "Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?"
But because airplane travel has a heavy carbon footprint, Thunberg refuses to board any airplanes. In Europe, she typically travels by train. But crossing the Atlantic posed a new challenge.
Thunberg enlisted the help of Boris Herrmann, who captains a schooner named Malizia II. The ship runs on solar power and underwater turbines (in addition to wind, of course), thereby generating electrical power with zero carbon emissions.
Since arriving in the US, Thunberg has been busy.
The same day, she attended a meeting with US lawmakers to discuss policies on climate change.
On Friday, Thunberg will attend a worldwide climate strike that is expected to be even larger than the one in March.
Then on Saturday, Thunberg will speak at the UN Youth Climate Summit.
Following her engagements in New York, Thunberg plans to travel throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico, then attend the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile in December.
"During the past year, millions of young people have raised their voice to make world leaders wake up to the climate and ecological emergency. Over the next months, the events in New York and Santiago de Chile will show if they have listened," Thunberg said in a press release.
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